A defining moment for Palestinian rights

Israel’s new right-wing government has escalated violence against Palestinians. The U.S. must act now to oppose Israeli apartheid and the growing existential threat to the Palestinian people.

The new Israeli government entered office on a platform of explicit Jewish supremacy that promised to perpetuate violations of Palestinian rights. Months later, we are seeing their platform enacted through escalating violence and abuse.  

The first month of 2023 was deadly. Over 30 Palestinians were killed by the Israeli military in the West Bank, including 10 killed in a raid in Jenin on Jan. 26. Hundreds of attacks on Palestinians by armed Israeli settlers injured many more people and destroyed property across the West Bank. Israel has bombed Gaza repeatedly and conducted drills to prepare its troops for another invasion of Gaza. Yet there has been no accountability for any of these actions.  

This violence is happening in the context of deepening Israeli colonization of Palestinian land. The forced displacement of Palestinians is escalating. The Israeli government has demolished homes in Jerusalem and Areas B and C of the West Bank and plans to demolish whole villages in the coming weeks. Settlers are constructing new illegal outposts as the government moves to “legalize” past theft of Palestinian land. At least 18,000 new settlement housing units are also in the plans.  

Threats to rights don’t stop at the Greenline, the 1948 armistice line separating the West Bank from Israel. The Israeli government is working to implement a law that could strip Palestinian citizens of Israel of their citizenship while squashing broader political freedoms. The government is also taking steps to politicize the courts, limit political protest, restrict the rights of women and the LGTBQ community, and restrict speech. Hundreds of thousands of Israelis have taken to the streets to protest some of these restrictions, but those protests are generally not focused on the rights of Palestinians.  

This is apartheid. And it is critical that the U.S. act now to oppose these ongoing human rights violations and the growing existential threat to the Palestinian people posed by the Israeli government. 

Standing for Palestinian rights 

Since 1948, AFSC has worked to realize a just and lasting peace in historic Palestine. Our work in the U.S. provides analysis about and supports advocacy efforts to end Israel’s policies of occupation and apartheid. We partner with the Palestinian human rights organization Defense for Children International – Palestine on the No Way to Treat a Child campaign. We also lift up Palestinian voices to highlight the reality of life in Gaza under blockade through Gaza Unlocked. We resource and lead economic activism campaigns across the U.S. This work is an important part of ending U.S. complicity in Israeli apartheid by demanding accountability and an end to U.S. financial and political support for Israel.  

For the last decade, AFSC’s work on the ground in Palestine has brought together Palestinian youth from across all of historic Palestine. We support this generation of leaders as they push for social and political change within Palestinian society, make their voices heard, and call for dignity and respect. We support nonviolent efforts to end violence and abuse.   

The youth we work with today have grown up in a post-Oslo reality, a time when negotiations have never been a source of hope and peace agreements are merely unfulfilled relics of the past. Most have no direct memories of the second intifada, the period of resistance and violence during the first years of this century which left thousands of Palestinians dead and formalized the political and geographic fragmentation that we see today.  

For the youth of today, Israeli attacks, the wall, the Gaza blockade, and general movement restrictions are the only reality they have known. There has never been a time when settlements were not expanding and settler violence was not a daily reality.  From Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, which killed more than 200 Palestinians, to Operation Protective Edge Gaza in 2014 that killed more than 2,000 Palestinians, mass killings without accountability have been a constant part of life.

Now the reality in Palestine and Israel is reaching a critical juncture with the ascent of Israel's new right-wing government. Mass forced displacement and killings are real possibilities.  

The past year has seen an increase in Palestinian militancy and armed resistance, particularly among this young generation. The latest act of violence was the killing of seven Israelis in a Jerusalem settlement after the Israeli attack on Jenin. At AFSC, we stand against all violence and work towards its end. We also understand that violence begets violence and, that ending violence requires looking beyond individual actions to understand the systems and structures from which violence springs. The apartheid regime under which Palestinians live is defined by violence. When that violence against Palestinians is allowed to continue with impunity while nonviolent attempts to bring change—like the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement—are demonized and declared violent, Palestinian acts of violence become more likely. Bringing violence to an end requires ending apartheid and occupation.   

Today the youth we work with in Palestine give us hope for a just and lasting peace. We see their dedication and belief in a better future. Every day, they work to build a reality beyond the limits of occupation and apartheid. But to bring change, they need support from the international community.  

This is a moment of truth for a generation of Palestinian youth. Reflection, nuance, and action are more important now than ever. 

Ending U.S. complicity  

Today, the U.S. government continues to shield Israel from accountability and unilaterally condemns Palestinians for resisting the reality of apartheid in their everyday lives. Political discourse in the U.S. is dominated by a “both sides” narrative that fails to acknowledge the deep power imbalance between occupier and occupied. This narrative instead demands negotiation between the right-wing, apartheid-supporting Israeli government and Palestinians who are denied their basic rights.   

But on the military and diplomatic fronts, the United States remains squarely behind Israel. Every year, the U.S. provides Israel with $3.8 billion in military financing, despite the Israeli government’s open rejection of U.S positions on peace. Now the Biden administration is moving to further reward Israel by waiving visa requirements for its citizens to visit the U.S., granting Israeli citizens privileged status while Palestinians continue to face open discrimination.   

This cannot continue. Today the United States cannot ignore the growing reality of apartheid and the existential threat to the Palestinian people posed by the new Israeli government.  

But our elected officials won’t act without public pressure from constituents. People of conscience in the U.S. must stand up against the Israel's apartheid regime--and U.S. complicity in these violations of Palestinians’ rights.   

Demand an end to U.S. military aid to Israel, support BDS, take part in campaigns like No Way to Treat a Child and Gaza Unlocked. Make clear your support for Palestinian rights and that you will not accept continued Israeli impunity. In the absence of commitment from the U.S. government, your actions are critical to changing U.S. government policy and helping realize a just and lasting peace.